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Battles & Leaders of the Civil War

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THE DEFENSE OF THE RED RIVER. (1)
BY E. KIRBY SMITH, GENERAL, C. S. A.

SOON after my arrival in the Trans-Mississippi Department (2). I became convinced that the valley of the Red River was the only practicable line of operations by which the enemy could penetrate the country. This fact was well under stood and appreciated by their generals.

I addressed myself to the task of defending this line with the slender means at my disposal. Fortifications were erected on the lower Red River Shreveport and Camden were fortified, and works were ordered on the Sabine and the crossings of the upper Red River. Depots were established on the shortest lines of communication between the Red River valley and the troops serving in Arkansas and Texas. Those commands were directed to be held ready to move with little delay, and every preparation was made in advance tor accelerating a concentration at all times difficult over long distances, and through a country destitute of supplies and with limited mean s of transportation.

In February, 1864, the enemy were preparing in New Orleans, Vicksburg, and Little Rock for offensive operations. Though 25,000 of the enemy were reported on the Texas coast, my information convinced me that the valley of the Red River would be the principal theater of operations and Shreveport the objective point of the columns moving from Arkansas and Louisiana.

On the 21st of February General Magruder commanding in Texas was ordered to hold Green's division of cavalry in readiness to move at a moment's warning, and on the 5th of March the division was ordered to march at once to Alexandria and report to General Taylor, who had command in Louisiana.

About that time the enemy commenced massing his forces at Berwick Bay.

On the 12th of March a column of ten thousand men, composed of portions of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Army Corps under General A. J. Smith, moved down from Vickt, arid advanced with such celerity on Fort De Russy, taking it in reverse that General Taylor was not allowed , time to concentrate and cover this important work, our only means of arresting the progress of the gun-boats. The fall of this work and the immediate movement of the enemy, by means of his transports, to Alexandria, placed General Taylor in a very embarrassing position. He extricated himself with his characteristic tact by a march of seventy miles through the pine woods.

Banks now pressed forward from Berwick Bay, by the line of the Teche and by the aid of steamers, on both the Mississippi and Red rivers concentrated at Alexandria a force of over 30,000 men, supported by the most powerful naval armament ever employed on a river.

(1) I have found amongst my war papers two letters upon the Red River campaign which I believe have never been published. They were written by me to Mr. Davis, the President of the Confederacy, immediately after the occurrence of those events, and are official and have the merit of being written when events were fresh and before either prejudice or personal feeling could have biased. From these, chiefly, I take this narrative.-E. K. s.

(2) General E. Kirby Smith took command of all the Confederate forces west of the Mississippi River March 7th, 1863, and held it until the end of the war.-EDITORS.


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